Mash The Gas – Charlotte Preview

Last week was a break from points racing and with the All-Star weekend and the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, teams have been able to hang out at home for the longest time since before the season started.

Now that a little breather in the schedule is over, NASCAR celebrates Memorial Day Weekend with the longest race in the season. The Coca-Cola 600 with the extra 100 laps taxes the crew and the equipment as the race starts in the late afternoon and finishes under the lights on the mile and a half “D” shaped oval of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. So far this season has seen a higher amount of engine failures than in years past, mostly due to the newly adapted electronic fuel injection systems, which brings endurance back into the equation for the 600 miles at Charlotte.

The green flag for the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled to fly late Sunday afternoon at 6:15pm eastern. Enjoy the Monaco Grand-Prix in the morning followed by the Indianapolis 500 and then settle back for the 600 and it will be a full day of racing. Make sure you get your yard work done on Saturday.

#48-Jimmie Johnson
Dan Margetta – The 48 team is back and the beat down they laid on the field in the All-Star race serves notice they are a force to be reckoned with from here on out. Johnson practically owned this event, winning three in a row from 2003-2005 and his six wins at Charlotte are the most among active drivers. Johnson is good here and crew chief Chad Knaus is brilliant when it comes to pit strategy and both are necessary to survive 600 miles.

John Wiedemann – Easy choice here as Johnson had the strategy and executed it perfectly to dominate the final segment of the Sprint All-Star Race. Winning at Darlington the week earlier makes it seem that Johnson is on a hot streak. Truth is he has been good all year. Barring a wreck at Daytona, oil pump issues at Talladega and the mess at Martinsville, a race Johnson arguably would have won, and Johnson would be at the top of the standings right now. One guarantee is that you will never see Rick Hendrick riding on the door of the 48 again, no matter what.

#5-Kasey Kahne
JW – Kasey Kahne has raced at Charlotte sixteen times in the Sprint Cup Series. In those races he has finished in the top ten half of the time and has three wins. Over fifty points behind Carl Edwards in tenth, Kahne has been climbing the standings quickly with a recent streak of five top tens. Expect another top ten and probably a shot at the win this week as he continues to work his way toward the Chase field.

DM – Kahne’s three wins at Charlotte include two in the 600 and he has top-ten finishes in half his starts. Back in 2008, Kahne came into Charlotte desperately needing a good result and wound up winning the race. Sound familiar? Kahne could net that much needed win this weekend to further his quest to claw his way back into the Chase.

#17-Matt Kenseth
DM – Kenseth has two wins at Charlotte, scoring his first career Cup win in this race in 2000 and then winning the last race held here this past October. The Coca-Cola 600 is such a long event that things are almost certain to go wrong at some point and the team that adapts to the issues the best is likely the winner. The 17 team is one of the best at dialing their car in during the race and they should contend for the win Sunday night.

#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr
JW – Dale Jr dominated the Sprint Showdown to get into the All-Star Race and then won a segment and finishing fifth. Word was that they are bringing the same car back for the 600. Junior will be stout at the track he has ten top ten finishes in twenty-five starts. One lap away from winning last year, this year gives him another shot to break the winless streak.

#18-Kyle Busch
DM – Over the past ten races, Kyle Busch leads the stat sheet with top-ten finishes in eight of his last nine starts here. He’s become much better at keeping his emotions in check and has proven to be plenty capable of enduring the 600 mile distance.

Drivers To Watch:
#24-Jeff Gordon
DM – Jeff Gordon’s season hinges on the Coca-Cola 600 as anything less than a win has the potential to scrap his entire year. Gordon has five wins here but it has been awhile since he’s been a factor in the 600. Gordon is smart enough to be around at the finish and the 600 could play into his hands if this is the weekend the luck element goes his way for a change.

#20-Joey Logano
JW – Joey Logano’s best racetrack may be Charlotte. A consistent top ten finisher in the six races he has run, four times, his other finishes were 12th and 13th. Logano is 44 points behind tenth place in the standings and either needs a bunch of wins or some great finishes if he wants to be in the Chase. Now is the time for Logano.

#31-Jeff Burton
DM – Another guy that is desperate for a good result is Jeff Burton and this would be a good weekend to turn his year around. Burton has three wins at Charlotte, including two in the Coca-Cola 600, and new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer guided David Ragan to a second place finish in last year’s 600. If you’re looking for a longshot this weekend, Burton could be your guy.

#99-Carl Edwards
JW – Carl Edwards has eight top ten finishes in fourteen races at Charlotte. Edwards best finish is third, which he accomplished three times including the fall race at Charlotte last season.

#14-Tony Stewart
DM – Stewart dominated the 1.5 mile circuits earlier in the year, winning at Las Vegas and the defending Sprint Cup Champion would love to add the 600 trophy to his collection and share the sports spotlight with the winner of that other car race held earlier in the day in his home state of Indiana.

JW – The moment you forget about Stewart, he will pop back into victory lane. Thirty-two points ahead of the cutoff for the Chase and with two wins in his pocket, Stewart is a lock for the Chase at this point. Recent results have been a bit erratic but at this point there should not be any concern for the defending champ.

#2-Brad Keselowski
JW – I said prior to Brad Keselowski’s race at Darlington that his season has been an amusement park ride. The valleys are a little less harsh lately and the peaks are as high as possible. So, it was a win at Talladega, 15th at Darlington and second at the Sprint All-Star Race. Let’s see what another run at Charlotte Motor Speedway will produce.

DM – Fuel Mileage could be a big story this weekend as the Coca-Cola 600 has been known to be decided on a late-race fuel run. Last year, the fans were practically hanging on the fences as Dale Earnhardt Jr. was charging to a sure win only to sputter dry of fuel in turn four as Kevin Harvick passed by to take the checkered flag. Casey Mears scored his only Sprint Cup win to date in fuel-mileage fashion during this race in 2007. The 600 should also be a good test to see which teams have done their homework when it comes to Electronic Fuel Injection.

From the entire crew – Have a great and, most importantly, safe Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy the races and remember why we have the freedom to enjoy our favorite sports. As always, and especially this weekend, have some thoughts and thanks to those who are currently away from home and serving for us and our country.

Share Button